October 13. 2016
*This is the first in a series of blogs about The Fountas &
Pinnell Literacy Continuum. In order to
understand The Literacy Continuum it
is essential to understand the Systems of Strategic Actions. Read on to learn
While we read books, magazines, blogs, etc., our brains are
subconsciously and simultaneously performing a variety of in-the-head actions
in order to understand the text in front of us. We notice words we haven’t
heard before or understood. We form opinions. We predict what might happen
next. Word solving, predicting, and critiquing are just three of the twelve
Systems of Strategic Actions that are simultaneously happening in our heads
while we’re processing a text.
Take a moment to look at the image above. Fountas and
Pinnell have developed this Systems of Strategic Actions (SOSA) wheel to
illustrate the thinking readers are engaged in as they process texts. Whether
you’re a beginning reader or a seasoned reader, all twelve systems are in use. These
cognitive systems are assembled and reassembled in the head as readers move
from the easiest texts up a ladder of increasingly difficult texts. The demands
of the instructional level text give readers opportunities to learn new ways of
problem-solving that in turn builds the processing network.
With appropriate text opportunities and effective teaching,
readers will continue to construct their in-the-head processing systems as they
move across the grades and into adulthood. Below is a breakdown of these
Systems of Strategic Actions.
Thinking Within the
Thinking within the text refers to searching for and using
information, monitoring and self-correcting, solving words, maintaining
fluency, adjusting, and summarizing for purposes and genre of text. By engaging in these strategic actions,
readers acquire a literal understanding of the text—“what is happening” or “the
facts.” “Most of the time, these actions are unconscious. You don’t mentally
tell yourself, ‘Now, I have to search for information.’ You just do it when
prompted by internal questions. When studying for a test, for example, you
might consciously remember details or a summary, but most of the time, you
simply understand the text and recall the information automatically. Since you
do not need to pay attention to the processing, your mind can be working on
something else,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).
As a teacher, you can gather information about the first five systems of
strategic actions by observing reading behavior.
Thinking Beyond the Text
Thinking beyond the text means bring your own thinking TO
the understanding in a variety of ways.
Readers make predictions. They make
connections with personal experience, content knowledge, and other texts. They synthesize new information, which
requires differentiating between what they already know and adjusting that fund
of knowledge to accommodate the new information they encounter in the
infer what is implied but not
stated. “Again, you do not consciously understand these actions; they happen
while you are reading. Much of your comprehension of a text comes not from the
print itself but from what you bring to the reading. Anyone who has been a
member of a book club knows that every person in the group has a slightly
different interpretation of the text. These variations in interpretation are
quite valuable when they are shared—everyone’s thinking is enriched,” (Fountas
and Pinnell 2009). As a teacher you can
gain evidence of your students’ ability to think beyond the text by listening
to their talk about it and examining their writing.
Thinking About the
Thinking about the text means examining it closely and in an
analytic way. Readers notice and analyze
the writer’s craft and appreciate or criticize something about the writing.
“When you say, ‘Amy Tan is one of my favorite writers,’ you are indicating that
you like her style, the subjects she writes about, the way she organizes and
tells a story, her choice of language, and so on. You are holding up the text
as an object to be admired. Similarly, you might question the accuracy or
authenticity of a text or be critical of the author’s motives or
qualifications. Sometimes analyzing and critiquing are conscious efforts,
especially if you plan to talk about the text with others; but just as often,
they are unconscious. Proficient readers think analytically and critically all
the time while they are reading,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009). Evidence of students’ ability to think about
the text may be found in their talk and writing.
Through closely observing your students during oral reading,
talk, or writing you can see the evidence of their control of all twelve
systems. The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy
Continuum shows you what behaviors you should be noticing and teaching for
at each grade or level. Each behavior is categorized into one of the Systems of
Strategic Actions, to help teachers make decisions during shared reading,
interactive read-aloud, and guided reading lessons, as well as writing about
“The common thread is that most children acquire a fully
developed literacy processing system that grows and expands over the years. It
is helpful to have in mind a clear picture of what effective readers do as they
build their systems so we can think about what all readers need to be able to
do,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).
Jill Backman, Fountas and Pinnell Marketing Manager
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Struggle: Teaching That Works. © 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.